If you’re a points and miles collector, you know how complicated and crazy this hobby can be. There is no shortage of credit card tips and secrets online. Though even with all the information available, there are still many things I’ve learned along the way. In this video/post, I thought I’d share nine things that I wish I knew before starting the points and miles hobby. Some of the items are serious, while others are more fun. But I’m hoping that it will help you, especially if you’re new to credit cards. For those of you who have been doing this for awhile, I hope you can relate and share your experience and knowledge with others.
Things I wish I knew before getting into credit card points
1. Points almost always go down in value:
I think it’s important to remember that points rarely appreciate in value. This means that you shouldn’t hoard points. I know — I’ve been there and have wanted to see how many points I could amass. Though it’s better to use your points rather than save them since they’ll likely lose value over time.
2. Nothing last forever:
The best travel credit cards seem to have specific lifespans. For example, the American Express Platinum card was once the standard when it comes to luxury travel points and perks. Then came along the Chase Sapphire Preferred. I was convinced that the Sapphire Preferred would have a permanent place in my wallet. Though in 2016, that card was replaced by their Sapphire Reserve card in my wallet.
In the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of new players in the game. The market was previously dominated by American Express and Chase. Now companies like Citi, US Bank, Barclaycard, and many more are in the game. Many of these companies have created incredible credit card products. While I love my Chase “quinfecta”, I have a feeling that I’ll likely have different cards in my wallet in the coming years.
3. Rules change all the time:
This one is frustrating. You might sign-up for a card with generous perks, only to find out that the benefits are no longer valid or available after a year or two. This is almost to be expected. In fact, Chase recently announced a bunch of changes and a lot of people were worried. Many thought they would lose benefits like transferring points between cards. Luckily, that didn’t happen, but it might still happen next year! This is an uncertain hobby and you have to be willing to adapt and pivot when necessary.
4. It gets harder to get credit cards:
One thing that I didn’t realize when I started is how difficult it is to get more credit cards when you already have a lot of extended credit. For example, I have 17 active cards. Whenever I apply for a new card, it seems like the issuer wonders why I need more credit. I’ve had to slow down my card applications since I can’t justify having more credit from the issuers.
5. Everyone thinks you’re crazy:
Once you get into this hobby, most people will think one of two things about you. You’re either a genius who is gaming the system or an insane person. I’ve been using credit cards to pay for my travel for years. Though I still have friends who are convinced that I’m doing something illegal. Or even better, they think I’m in a huge amount of credit card debt.
While it’s mostly funny, I am conscious of the fact that people will judge me on this hobby. And while it may not matter in my personal life, there have been times where I’ve held back at work. I didn’t want people in my professional life to perceive me in a certain way. You may be less self-conscious than me, but I definitely like to warn people of the stigma when it comes to getting lots of credit cards, even if you are completely responsible with them.
6. My expectations have changed:
This is one thing that I didn’t realize would happen until I actually starting traveling with points. While I wouldn’t say that I am a high-maintenance traveler, I do prefer to stay in hotels rather than hostels. I attribute this to being able to stay at fancy hotels using my points. When given the option now, I much prefer a nice hotel. This may or may not be a good thing, but I definitely see more value in having a comfortable, clean, and private space when traveling. This is especially important when I want to make the most of my trip. Knowing that I can get a proper rest and sleep is definitely worth the extra cost.
7. Collecting cards is a marathon, not a sprint:
I’ve mentioned this in a couple of other videos. I get a lot of comments from people who are trying to apply for every major credit card offer within a couple of months. While some people are able to pull it off, I am a lot more conservative with my advice. I know many people said that I was being too cautious in my Chase 2/30 rule video/post. Though I always try to see it from an issuer’s perspective. I think it looks risky to the issuers to be overly eager for more credit. The longer I’ve been in this game, the more I want to develop a relationship with the banks to build that trust.
8. Always research before applying:
Any time you are thinking of applying for a card, do a Google search to see if any bloggers are reporting on a better opening bonus or offer. There have been many instances where there is a better offer available. Even a few months ago, I noticed that a lot of credit card bloggers were recommending the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Most of their affiliate links offered 50,000 points to open the account. However, on the Chase website, they were advertising a 60,000 points offer to open an account. I don’t think the credit card bloggers were trying to mislead anyone. However, it definitely highlights why you should always do research on potential offers.
9. Don’t obsess about your points:
I am embarrassed to admit that I often spend multiple hours researching what to book in order to get a fraction of a cent more in redemption value. I’m guessing some of you might be guilty of this too. It’s so easy to get sucked into obsessing about point values and maximum redemptions. Just remember that your time is valuable. I think it’s always good to try and find the best deal. However, remember not to lose track of the big picture. It’s unlikely that you’ll reflect on your trip and wish you had tried to redeem at a higher rate. In fact, some of my best travel memories were booked with points without digging into points values. This was definitely the case on our trip to Mexico last year and our stay at the Andaz Mayakoba resort.
What are things that you wished you knew before getting into this hobby? Please let us know in the comment section below.